Friends of the Wildflower Garden

Information about Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Front gate in spring

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Web Site:

Please see the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board web site for complete information on the Garden including current operating hours, parking pass information, bus routes, programs offered at the Garden, plant and bird checklists. A locater map is also available on the Parks website. The Wildflower Garden is owned, operated, staffed and maintained by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden is an independent private nonprofit organization that provides volunteer and funding support.

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is a 16-acre native plant reserve. It is the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. Per its original charter, it is maintained in a natural rustic state, such as might have been encountered in early settlement times up to 1900.

Garden PLan Man

The unpaved pathways total less than a mile in length and are covered with a cedar chip mulch except for the boardwalk section in the wetland. The paths encircle various parts of the different ecosystems. There is an elevation change of 80 feet between the wetland in the Woodland Garden and the Hills of the Upland Garden. Paths are not easily wheel-chair accessible. A series of steps leads from the main (south) parking lot down to the entrance gate. The back gate (north) is at grade level on an old hard surface path from Wirth Beach Parking Lot. More detail is on the "Location/Parking tab."

The Wildflower Garden consists of three main ecosystems; a wetland complex referred to as the "Woodland Garden," upland hardwood forest and oak savanna with some open prairie, together referred to as the "Upland Garden." With over 600 plant species and more than 130 species of resident and migratory birds found in the Wildflower Garden, this delightful public native plant reserve is a true haven for the flora and fauna of our region, as well as for the many people who visit it.

In addition to native plants and birds, many other creatures call the Wildflower Garden home: Raccoons, chipmunks, rabbits, red foxes, woodchucks, red and gray squirrels, mice, shrews, voles, moles, bats, frogs, toads, turtles and snakes. Deer, turkeys, muskrats, opossums, mink and skunk have all been spotted nearby and may be visitors in the Wildflower Garden as well, although perhaps, unwelcome.

The Wildflower Garden was founded in 1907 by allocating land that was already part of the existing Glenwood Park (est. 1889) on the west side of Minneapolis. This designated area was first called the "Wild Botanic Garden" but was soon changed to a more descriptive "Native Plant Reserve" and was tended by botany teachers from the Minnespolis Public School System, especially by a visionary teacher named Eloise Butler. Ms. Butler became the official curator of the Wildflower Garden in 1911 after she retired from teaching and dedicated herself to the care, management and expansion of the Wildflower Garden until her death in 1933. It had been renamed for her in 1929. Four gardener/curators have followed in her footsteps up to the present. It was she who inspired her former student Clinton Odell, one of the early benefactors of the Wildflower Garden, to found the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. The Garden Curator is Susan Wilkins.

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Location and Parking

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The Garden is located within Theodore Wirth Park which is on the western edge of Minneapolis.

If you are driving, a pay parking lot (#1 on map) is located near the front gate. A much larger free parking lot (#2 on map) is located at Wirth Beach and is a short walk to the back gate of the Garden. Be aware that front gate parking is either by metered payment kiosk (quarters or credit card), or by the annual Minneapolis Parks parking pass. There are 23 spaces in the front gate lot. Lock your car and do not leave valuables in your car exposed to sight!

City Buses travel on Glenwood Ave. where the Wirth Beach parking lot is located. Bus Route 9. See the Parks web site for routes. Click on map for a Satellite Map of the area.

Wirth Park Map

Handicap Access

The Garden is maintained, in accord with its original charter, in a wild natural state similar to 1900. Access to the Garden from the front gate parking area is not directly wheel chair accessible due to steps. There is a maintenance path without steps at the south end of the parking lot that slopes down to the Garden entrance. Also be aware that most paths in the garden are covered with a natural mulch and when the mulch is fresh, it may provide difficulty for certain wheel chairs or push type walking devices. The Shelter has two entrance steps. Back Gate Alternative: There are not any steps on the path from the large, free, Wirth Beach Parking Lot to the back gate of the Garden. There is one moderate hill on this path and the path has sections that are compacted gravel and sections that are paved. In the map above, the path labeled "Alternate" is fairly level, all paved, but old, with the slopes moderate. Either alternate path is about 400 yards from the parking lot to the back gate. From inside the back gate the paths of Violet Way and Geranium Lane are fairly flat, but narrow, until they near the Shelter - then there is an uphill section on each path to reach the Shelter. The boardwalk in the wetland is flat, four feet wide and lies between and is connected to, Violet Path and Geranium Lane. The Shelter has steps for entry - no ramp. Rustic restrooms are near the front entrance and require two steps.

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Visiting Times

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Garden Hours

The Garden will open this year on April 18th and the season will run until October 15th and weekends only between Oct. 15 and Oct. 31. The Garden gates are open from Tuesday - Sunday 7:30 AM until 6 PM; Thursdays - 7:30 AM to 6 PM; closed Mondays. The Visitors Shelter opens at 10 AM.

Martha Crone Visitors Shelter
visitor shelter

The Shelter, built in 1969, was constructed for and donated to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board by the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden. (Shelter Details).  It was named in honor of Martha E. Crone, who followed Eloise Butler as Curator, and served in that position from 1933 to 1959.

When the Shelter is open, Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Naturalists and Volunteer Shelter Docents staff the Visitors’ Shelter. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff and guest instructors conduct public programs several times a week on a variety of natural history-related topics. Programs begin at the Visitors’ Shelter. For more information on program offerings click the link above to the Minneapolis Parks web site.

Larger image of the shelter.

Front Gate Welcome Kiosk

Visitors arriving via the front gate can stop at a welcome kiosh and speak with a volunteer about the Garden and pick up a Garden map and other information.

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This Month

At Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Muscle-wood in fall colors (Carpinus caroliniana)

September: In September we move into the autumn season. Many plants that began blooming in August such as the sunflowers, coneflowers and the early asters continue to bloom in September. The asters will soon be the dominant flower in the Upland Garden as the leaves begin to turn color. September is a great month to test your knowledge of what plant you are looking at when only a seed head is showing.

There are naturalist programs and birding walks every weekend. Use the Minneapolis Park & Rec Board website to access program information. Parking is metered at the main gate lot (quarters or Visa/Master Card only), but you may park in the free Wirth Lake Beach parking lot and walk to the back gate of the Garden. Use the “Location/Parking” tab above for a locator.

The Garden was dedicated in 1907 to be a wild native plant oasis within an urban environment, not an arboretum and no formal beds - a small natural garden where the hand of man is to be less evident.

Former Garden Curator Martha Crone wrote: "Autumn’s smoldering blaze of brilliance after summer’s green has vanished is most noticeable where birches flaunt a trim of gold, mingled with the flaming scarlet of maple and bronzes of the oaks."

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Plant Community

The plant community at Eloise Butler

Red-stem Aster
Red-stemmed Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum )

The plant lists below all have links to an information sheet with additional photos of the plants listed.

Sample Garden Plant List by Common Name

Sample Garden Plant List by Scientific Name

Photo thumbnails by season arranged in color categories.

Photo thumbnails of flowering plants -Spring

Photo thumbnails of flowering plants -Late Spring

Photo thumbnails of flowering plants -Early Summer

Photo thumbnails of flowering plants -Late Summer

Photo thumbnails of flowering plants -Autumn

Photo thumbnails - Late Summer fruits and seeds.

Photo thumbnails - Autumn fruits and seeds.

Above: These photo thumbnail lists, are arranged in scientific name order within six color categories, covering all seasons, and are also found on the Photo Gallery page. Printable pdf versions in scientific name order within color are also found on each season's photo gallery page.

Below: Additional plant listings:

Ferns of the Garden -Photo thumbnails

Grasses/Sedges of the Garden - Photo thumbnails

Trees and Shrubs of the Garden (Listing)

Indigenous Plants 1907-16 (MPRB pdf file)

Vascular Plant Census- 2009 (MPRB pdf file)

graphicGarden Plant Photo Identification Booklet

Visit the Photo Gallery Page for a complete list of plant photo pages.

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